How can I incorporate a party's theme into the food I serve?
Real Mom Problem
“My kid's birthday party is coming up, and I'm attempting a safari party. The only problem that I'm having is the food! I want the snacks to go along with the theme, which is making things a pain.”
- 1. Choosing a party theme can make food planning easier by narrowing your focus
- 2. Give standard menu items fun names that match your theme instead of creating new dishes
- 3. Look for foods with shapes, colors, and textures that match your party theme
- 4. Characters, colors, places, and activities can all inspire themed menus
Real Mom Solutions
You've picked the theme, chosen the decorations, and invited the guests, but you still need food ideas! Get great tips for making food that's as fun as your party from our expert mom and the moms of CafeMom.
Our Expert Mom Says...
I love parties with themes. If I could get away with it, I'd have a theme for every party, for grown-ups and kids alike, because it makes every aspect of planning easier and more fun. There are countless ways to work your theme into your meal; here are a few ideas:
Colors: Say you're throwing a Hulk party. The easy and obvious answer is to go green, with all-green fruit plates, pasta salad with pesto sauce, bowls of green M&M's, even green-tinted cake and mint-chocolate-chip ice cream. You could even play up the dual-personality aspect of the character with some plain vanilla cupcakes or ice cream for Bruce Banner, served alongside giant, green "you won't like me when I'm angry" Hulk versions of the same treats. You can work just about any color into your menu the same way, whether you're throwing a party for a girl who loves purple or celebrating with the Smurfs.
Favorite Places: If you're throwing a tropical beach party the menu practically writes itself (ham and pineapple skewers, coconut cake), but other locations might need a little more thought. A city-loving kid might want everything NYC at her party -- think street vendor specialties like hot dogs and soft pretzels. Hot dogs are also a must at a baseball party, and you could go all-out stadium style and get little plastic baseball cap bowls to serve ice cream. Or for a more creative take on the sport, you could set out lots of nibbles in ball and bat shapes: think mini balls of mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, grapes for "balls," along with breadsticks, cheese straws, celery sticks (and dip) for "bats." If your bash is zoo or circus themed, go with animal-shaped sugar cookie cutouts, and bags of peanuts in the shell (be sure there are no allergies among your guests).
Shapes and Numbers: Some themes are trickier than others to translate into food. We had a subway train themed party for my son's fourth birthday, for instance, and we were hard pressed to come up with snacks that fit the bill. But we managed to decorate the cake to look like a train and served round sugar cookies stenciled with the number 4 - in green, just like the real number 4 train in New York. Sugar cookies are your friend when it comes to party themes; with some creative decorating, they can be almost anything you want.
Laura Wallis is a mom of two and a veteran food and lifestyle writer. She was a longtime staffer at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and still pitches in as a freelance editor on "Everyday Food" magazine and special issues, and contributes to a variety of other food, lifestyle, and health publications. She has also contributed to numerous Martha Stewart books, including "American Food" and "Favorite Crafts for Kids."
More Fun Food Ideas from Our Moms
For a safari-themed party try "peanut butter and jellyphant" sandwiches (cut them out with an elephant cookie cutter). Spaghetti and meatballs or "crocodile eye balls and guts" (yes, I know this sounds gross, but the kids love it!). "Monkey meal": Peel a banana and put it on a hot dog roll, spread peanut butter on it and maybe a bit of honey, and you'll be amazed at how tasty a monkey sandwich is! "Snake dogs": Make multiple diagonal cuts into hot dogs, not quite all the way through, and fill the slits with ketchup, mustard, and relish. The kids love eating these "snakes."
"Alligator-ade" (aka green Gatorade) or "Swamp Juice." The kids will be mystified when they witness your power to turn ordinary green Gatorade into a steamy swamp! Start with green punch and after you've placed a filled glass in front of each kid, add a few Pop Rocks candies to each one. Since this candy is processed with carbon dioxide, it will crackle, pop, and split when it comes into contact with the green punch. AWESOME!
Tip: Make frozen ice cubes with raisins in them so it looks like flies are floating in their safari juices. Kids just love this!
For a dirt bike-themed party, a cake would be super cute with crushed Oreos on top, like "dirt." Make it hilly and see if you can find a tiny bike toy to put on top. For a tea party you can serve scones, biscuits (with jams and creams), muffins, finger sandwiches, petit fours, tarts, and a variety of teas, tea cakes, and cookies!
For a SpongeBob party: Pineapple, pineapple, lots of pineapple!